|Home - Volume 1 (2006) - Issue 2 (Fall '06) - Pistol Review: Para Ordnance CWX79R LDA Carry 9|
Para-Ordnance CWX79R LDA Carry 9mm Para
An alternative to the 3" 1911s in .45 ACP. And ..... It Works!
A Gun Test by Steve Clark (Rio Vista Slim, )
I freely admit to being an opinionated old curmudgeon! I have spent the last 36 years buying, selling, and trading handguns. Periodic financial opportunities have found me first-in-line for the "next BIG thing" on more occasions than I care to remember. When I saw my first 3" barreled 1911, I had to have it. A trip back to the factory finally allowed it to run, as intended, but it ended up on the trading block a few months later. Admittedly, I have gotten rid of a few guns that I should have held onto, but that aforementioned 3" forty-five was not one of them.
The 9mm Luger has never been my favorite handgun cartridge. I "cut my teeth" on .38/.357 revolvers, as well as .45 ACP 1911s. Although I've owned a variety of pistols chambered for the venerable parabellum over the years, my experiences with the cartridge, as well as the guns that chamber it, has been something less than stellar.
I choose, at this time, to forego the boring details. Suffice to say that I was "brain-washed" by the late Col. Jeff Cooper, and held in distain any cartridge, the diameter of which wasn't expressed in tenths of inches, with its first number being at least 4.
One of the things that I never had the opportunity to do, however, is shoot a 1911 chambered for the 9mm. Although I see quite a few models, from various manufacturers, offered in the 9mm chambering, I've yet to buy one.
After my test and review of the Para-Ordnance PX745S, I was informed that my next pistol for evaluation would be a 9mm. "Okay" says I. This will give me the long-awaited chance to test and compare the differences between full-sized 1911s chambered in the .45 ACP and 9mm Luger calibers.
The increasing number of states, in the U.S.A., that have legislated laws to allow individuals the licenses to legally carry concealed handguns, has given rise to the manufacturing of pistols aimed specifically at that market. Nineteen-elevens in .45 caliber, with 3 inch barrels, are all the rage. However, that ability to be easily concealed comes at a price. As mentioned above, smaller 1911s must be engineered to be reliable, and this can be a daunting task for a pistol engineer trying to alter a hundred year old design. As a gun manufacturer, you also have to be able to do these things, being mindful that few consumers possess gunsmith skills. The fact that several major players in the 1911 market have had numerous problems with their down-sized .45 caliber guns only emphasizes how difficult those engineering problems can be. The result has been a move to the 9mm as a viable alternative, in the concealable 1911 handgun market.
George Wedge, and the folks at Para-Ordnance, sent me one of their brand new LDA Carry 9 (CWX79R) pistols for evaluation. This is Para's first LDA pistol to come with an alloy frame. The Carry 9 is a single-stack, nine shot (8+1) 1911 with a 3 inch bull barrel. The aluminum alloy frame is sub-officer length (the same as a 6.45), and the entire pistol (with empty magazine) weighs 24 ounces. The overall height of the gun is 4.75 inches, while the overall length is 6.5 inches. The color is described by Para-Ordnance as being Covert Black, which presents a non-reflective surface.
Other than the Light Double Action trigger assembly, the Carry 9 is equipped with all of the standard controls found on any 1911-type pistol. These include a standard-size slide stop and a single thumb safety (slide lock safety), located in the proper place, on the left side of the slide. This safety has an extended shelf, for easier "on/off" operation by the shooter. Both of these items have horizontal serrations on their surface. The magazine catch is of standard size, and is serrated vertically.
The Carry 9 arrived at Great Guns in Burleson, Texas, packed in the usual Para-Ordnance olive green clam-shell plastic box. All of the necessary literature (instruction manual, factory test target, advertisements for Para parts) is folded inside the case. Additionally, Para includes a cable lock, a small vial of gun oil, and two hex wrenches. One of these hex wrenches fits the grip screws, while the second one fits the screw in the top of the rear sight. The pistol itself is wrapped in a blue plastic bag which fits snugly into the right upper corner of the clam-shell case. A spare 8 round magazine occupies the lower left center of the case.
The stainless steel bull barrel has Para's logo, along with the notation "9 M.M. Para". An integral feed ramp is standard fare with Para-Ordnance pistols, and this feature provides reliable feeding of most types of hollow point ammunition. The top of the barrel also has a small cut-out, that acts as a loaded chamber indicator when the pistol is fully stoked, and ready to go.
The photograph shows a small, but exceedingly strong barrel. The locking lugs are cut correctly, aiding in positive lock-up, and reinforcing the pistol's reliability.
The rear sight is a fixed, Novak-style combat variety, with two white dots on either side of the notch. The back surface of the rear sight has horizontal lines cut into its face. The front sight is dove-tailed into the slide, and has one white dot. Para describes these sights as their "Para Low-Mount 3-dot" sights.
The slide has Para's usual six, widely spaced, angled serrations at the rear of the slide, for more positive gripping when racking the slide. I had no difficulties in locking the slide back, or releasing it from slide lock. The ejection port is lowered and flared. A personal comment on the slide's finish is called for. I do not know what process Para uses to achieve this "Covert Black" appearance. It reminds me a great deal of the Tenifer treatment utilized by Glock in the manufacture of that company's handguns. I hope that the folks at Para don't take this as a "slam", as it is not meant to be. The aforementioned Tenifer is acknowledged to be one of the most wear resistant finishes available. The Carry 9 has a deeper, more lustrous appearance than any Glock that I have seen. I am merely curious as to the "Covert Black" finish's properties, and perhaps George Wedge can enlighten me someday.
James Belz (the owner of Great Guns) and I worked the action of the Carry 9, as well as trying out the unique trigger arrangement. Fresh out of the box, the trigger was quite smooth. Those who have never felt the trigger-action on a Para-Ordnance LDA-type pistol, have no idea just how smooth this system can be. Prior to testing, I held the attitude that the LDA trigger was the answer to a question that no one had asked. (Remember "opinionated old curmudgeon"?).
Trigger pull (using my RCBS Trigger Gauge) measured an average of 8 pounds. This lightened to an average of 7 1/2 pounds after 300 rounds were fired through the Carry 9. That weight is somewhat deceiving, in that the actual pull weight "felt" much lighter. Years of learning to correctly squeeze the triggers on my 1911s have left me predisposed to a love of that type of trigger. Limited exposure to Para's LDA trigger convinced me that THIS arrangement is quite good, and a viable alternative to "cocked and locked".
The stocks on the Para LDA Carry 9 appear to be made of a polymer-like material. They are black, with the Para logo and double-diamond checkering. These stocks are quite thin (Para describes them as Ultra-Thin), and provide a very good gripping situation for me. The two 8 round magazines supplied with the pistol have a polymer base plate, which also acts as a support for the little finger of the shooting hand. These magazines also have exceedingly strong springs. With each one, the last two rounds were loaded, with difficulty. (Time to call "Brownell's" for a magazine loading tool!). The magazine follower is also of a polymer construction.
The front strap of the pistol is smooth, and the flat mainspring housing has vertical serrations cut length-wise. Overall, the pistol fits my hand quite well, and did not shift appreciably while firing.
The Para-Ordnance LDA Carry 9 field strips differently than a standard 1911. Part of this difference is due to the grip safety being an integral part of the LDA trigger system. Additionally, the Series 80-type firing pin safety insures that mindful positioning of the pistol during field stripping and re-assembly is important. Making sure that the pistol is completely unloaded, with the magazine removed, and the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, grasp the gun with the thumb depressing the grip safety, and move the slide to the rear.
Line up the slide stop take-down notch with the slide stop, and push the slide stop from the right side, while continuing a firm grasp on the slide (of course, your left hand would be performing this function. I needed mine for the camera).
Remove the slide stop, and slowly allow the slide to move forward off the frame. Remove the recoil spring assembly, and then remove the recoil spring plug. The barrel can then be removed from the front of the slide. That is all the disassembly required, or recommended, for periodic maintenance of the pistol.
While I have the Carry 9 apart, I'd like to briefly touch on an observation that I made about this pistol the first time I field stripped it. The engineers/designers at Para-Ordnance wisely (in my opinion) chose to forego the use of any "foreign" objects to capture any of the recoil spring tension during disassembly. Instead, they use a dual spring, with the smaller spring enclosed within the guide rod assembly. The larger spring slips over this assembly, and the entire unit is kept in place with a recoil spring plug, which fits into the forward portion of the recoil spring tunnel, at the muzzle-end of the slide.
The use of this system merely removes one more extraneous piece of equipment that one would have to be in possession of, in order to field strip their weapon.
Re-assembly is in reverse order, being mindful to keep the firing pin safety plunger in a downward position while placing the slide back on the frame, as well as keeping the grip safety depressed.
Initial applications of this procedure might seem awkward, at first. However, I studied the photographs in the instruction manual, and I was able to successfully field strip the pistol quickly, and without any "idiot scratches". Subsequent disassemblies were easily undertaken.
The Firing Line
I decided to buy several different brands of factory ammunition for my range test of the LDA Carry 9. Wal-Mart was the source for Winchester 115 gr. FMJ target loads, while "Cheaper Than Dirt" provided Federal American Eagle 124 gr. FMJ cartridges. I also tested two varieties of Federal Hydra-Shok ammo, in 147 gr. and 135 gr. respectively. Remington Golden Sabres, in their 124 gr. loading, rounded out my test ammunition.
A 3 inch pistol designed primarily for concealed carry is not the same as a target grade Gold Cup National Match. Therefore, my initial firing was done at distances ranging from 3 to 10 yards (9 to 30 feet).
Para-Ordnance has a recommended break-in procedure for all of their pistols. This protocol allows the new gun owner to keep track of ammunition fired, magazines used, and any malfunctions that occur. My protocol differs, in that after making sure the pistol is clean and lubricated, I begin firing, stopping only to change magazines or hang new targets. In the event of a malfunction, I immediately write down all factors involved.
I loaded the two magazines that came with the Carry 9 and went out to my range to break-in the pistol. The results on the "Shoot 'N See" target reveal that I was putting too much finger to the LDA trigger. In subsequent drills, I concentrated more, and my groups worked their way towards the center of the target. I did have one malfunction! The slide lock engaged before the last round of the first magazine. I noted this, sling-shot the slide, and fired the last round. This was the only time during repeated loadings and firing that anything happened, other than reliable functioning. Cartridge casings were found slightly to the right, behind me about 3 feet. The pistol consistently extracted and ejected casings to that same area, and no feeding malfunctions were experienced. After 100 rounds had been fired, I ran a "bore-snake" through the barrel, wiped down the feed ramp, and fired another 75 rounds.
By this time, my thumb was getting pretty tender from reloading those two magazines, so I took a break, and cleaned the gun before beginning my accuracy and chronograph readings.
Although experience has taught me that these little guns are superbly accurate, our protocol here at M1911.ORG is to fire weapons with 3 ½ inch barrels, and smaller, at reduced ranges. I think that I could have gotten a fairly decent score at 25 yards, but the sight radius at that distance leaves a great deal to be desired. Therefore, I set my NRA target up at ten yards (30 feet). Later, I set the CED chronograph in a position that was 12 feet from the muzzle.
My best 5 shot group of the day with the Carry 9 was fired with American Eagle 124 gr. FMJ. I called the "flyer" that is seen on the target. Four of my shots fell into a 1 1/8 inch group centered around the 10-ring. The fifth shot opened the group to 1.5 inches. That shot was high and to the left. Although I tried to better that group, I was unable to, and proceeded to set up the chronograph.
One thing that will open a person's eyes when using a chronograph, is how much different the bullet velocities are from the published reports by ammo makers. A two inch loss in barrel length accounts for some interesting results.
Accuracy is another matter. These guns are surprisingly accurate. I wish that I had been fortunate enough to have some spare magazines, as my sore thumb was really bothering me. I was developing a bad "flinch", with the accompanying drop in accuracy. I stopped the test at 300 rounds, for the simple fact that I was done in.
The Para-Ordnance LDA Carry 9 (CWX79R) carries a suggested retail price of approximately $940, which, when compared to other offerings by competitors, appears to be a good deal. It is a brand new offering from a company that has made innovation, in the 1911 marketplace, the rule rather than the exception. The features (LDA trigger, aluminum alloy frame, thinness of the grip, reliability, and accuracy) move this small 1911 into the forefront of concealable, larger caliber handguns. Due to its 9mm chambering, recoil is not a problem, and the gun easily returns to target when firing multiple shots. The sights make target acquisition a breeze, and the lightweight means that this pistol could be easily carried all day long, with no discomfort.
A short test, such as this one, does not allow for the evaluation of the overall finish of the gun. The Covert Black finish does appear to be of a type that would last for a considerable period of time, given proper care and maintenance. After firing, the Carry 9 cleaned up quickly, and no tooling marks were evident under the slide or on the aluminum frame.
Andy Arratoonian's rendition of the old Bruce Nelson designed "Avenger" holster is one of the finest pieces of handgun leather available on this planet. In Andy's holster, the gun is carried high and tight, and the Carry 9 fit as if the holster had been made for it, which it was not.
Overall, I give the Para LDA Carry 9 high marks for fit and finish, reliability, and accuracy. Although I am impressed by the engineering that produced the LDA trigger and hammer system, I still prefer the single-action triggers that are standard on most other 1911-type pistols. My 1911-type pistols have a trigger pull ranging from four to five pounds, and I know where each one releases the sear. I had to get use to a completely different trigger system with the LDA Carry 9, and that might have added some negative factors to my accuracy testing. Once again, any problems are self-admitted, and not the fault of the pistol.
I would also like to see the option of magazines without the polymer floor plate, since I consider the small extension to be one more thing to conceal. (John's Note: No George, we haven't talked with Steve about that.).
Finally, I prefer slide serrations that are straight, cut in a finer pattern, and numerous. Para-Ordnance's proprietary slide serrations are visually distinctive, and part of the package that comes with all of their pistols. I realize other manufacturers use designs of their choosing, and that those decisions have to do with function, form, and appearance. I am simply stating what works best for me.
The Carry 9 represents an excellent choice for the handgun aficionado who is looking for an easily concealed, lightweight 1911-type pistol. The 9mm Luger cartridge has come a long way from the full metal jacket loadings and "Super-Vel" hollow points of my youth. The manufacturers of commercially available ammunition are currently producing rounds that are "light years" ahead of what was available to consumers in the 1970s. Although the 9mm Luger will never be a .45, it most assuredly is a popular and hard-hitting round.
The Para-Ordnance LDA Carry 9 is a reliable, well-made, accurate, innovative handgun.
This test and evaluation would not have been possible without the assistance of Para-Ordnance Manufacturing, and their "Super" Manager of Quality, Mr. George Wedge. George dragged himself out of a sick-bed to provide me with some of the pertinent details of this pistol. I very much appreciate your efforts, George!
Once again, my sincere thanks to James Belz of Great Guns, in Burleson, Texas, without whose help this test would not have been possible.
I would also like to thank Competitive Edge Dynamics, for the use of their excellent chronograph in the "Firing Line" portion of this evaluation.
If you want to discuss or comment on this test, please use the following thread in our Forums Site:
Competitive Edge Dynamics USA
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|Home - Volume 1 (2006) - Issue 2 (Fall '06) - Pistol Review: Para Ordnance CWX79R LDA Carry 9|